School of Education
December 1, 2013
Research Contributes to Understanding ELL Assessment and Instruction
Jamal Abedi is a Professor of Measurement and Psychometrics at the University of California, Davis and a visiting scholar at the School of Education of the University of California, Irvine.
Professor Abedi’s research interests include studies in the areas of psychometrics and test and scale development. His recent works include studies on the validity of assessments, accommodations, and classification of English language learners (ELLs), and he serves on the advisory boards for a number of states and assessment consortia as an expert on the assessment of English learners.
Professor Abedi is the recipient of the 2003 National Professional Service Award in recognition of his Outstanding Contribution Relating Research to Practice by the American Educational Research Association, the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Educational Research Association, and the 2013 National Association of Test Directors for Outstanding Contribution to Educational Assessment. He holds a Master’s degree in psychology and a Ph.D. degree in psychometrics from Vanderbilt University.
Professor Abedi’s focus on the issues concerning academic achievement of ELL students is evident in his professional activities (grants, publications, teaching, presentations, and professional services).
I have consistently made coordinated efforts throughout my academic career to examine issues regarding assessment of ELL students and to provide ways to improve their academic performance.
In the past 15 years he has received several major grants from national organizations such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education.
Currently Professor Abedi is serving as
- Principal Investigator (PI) on a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to examine the current status and future development of formative assessment in the nation focusing on the assessment of at-risk student population including ELL students
- PI on a four-year grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education examining the effectiveness and validity of accommodations for ELL students
- Co-PI for a four-year IES grant to examine the effectiveness of the WRITE program for ELL students
- Lead psychometrician on a newly funded IES grant to evaluate the “Quality of English Language Proficiency (ELP) Assessments” in the nation
- Co-Editor of the AERA journal of Review of Research in Education (RRE)
- Associate Editor of the Educational Assessment Journal
- Member of the Editorial Board of the Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, and International Multilingual Research Journal
Professor Abedi has been actively involved in reviewing journal articles and grant proposals and active in presentation and publication at the international level. He has contributed papers and book chapters to international journals and encyclopedias focusing on the assessment and accommodation for EAL (English as Additional Language) students internationally. He was asked by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual, http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/how-we-regulate) of the United Kingdom to develop guidelines on Language Accessibility for their national exams and to examine assessments biases through Differential Item Functioning (DIF) approach. He has also been invited to give keynote speeches and provide training in key psychometric topics such as development and field-testing of English language proficiency tests and differential item functioning methodologies.
Professor Abedi has contributed to assessment instruments and computer software in the public domain.
My creativity test (Abedi Test of Creativity, ATC) has received international recognition and numerous requests for this test and literature related to creation and validation of this instrument. In early 2012, I received a letter from the American Psychological Association (APA) requesting that my creativity test be included in the assessment inventory list giving access to millions of visitors to the APA website. Similarly, my computer software (ITRS: Interrater/Test Reliability and Generalizability System) has received international attention and has been requested by numerous researchers worldwide. I have also received many requests for the “Meta-Cognitive Instrument,” co-authored with Professor Harold O’Neil of the University of Sothern California.
Findings of Professor Abedi’s research have led to a conceptual framework of a measurement model for ELL students and have contributed to the body of knowledge in two ways:
- As demonstrated by the outcome of his research, the classical measurement theory may not apply to assessment outcomes for ELL students.
- Unnecessary linguistic complexity of assessment has a profound impact on the psychometric properties of the assessments for these students.
For example, the results of his studies have demonstrated that the unnecessary linguistic complexity of content-based test items (e.g., in science and mathematics tests) is a likely source of measurement error differentially impacting the performance of ELL students. Thus, the assumption of random error in classical test theory may not hold for these students since the unnecessary linguistic complexity affects their performance as a systematic source of error. Results of his studies also suggest that linguistic complexity of test items as a source of construct-irrelevant variance negatively affects the construct validity of the test for these students. Therefore, his research has suggested fundamental changes in the theory of measurement for subgroups of students, in particular for ELL students.
To control for the impact of language factors (unnecessary linguistic complexity) on assessment of ELL students in content-based areas, I have introduced the concept and methodology of “linguistic modification” approach in which unnecessary linguistic complexity unrelated to the content in test items can be reduced or modified in a systematic manner. This body of research has paved the way to a greater understanding of assessment issues for subgroups of students in general and for English language learners in particular.
Consistent with his research focus, Professor Abedi’s professional services have been mainly focused on assessment issues for ELL students. He has been asked to serve on the Technical Advisory Board for various states and is also a member of the advisory board for several state and national consortia that are working on assessments for ELLs and students with disability. Examples include the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which is planning a comprehensive assessment system to 26 states; the California English Language Development Test (CELDT); The World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA), which provides English language proficiency assessment to 27 states; Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), which develops and provides alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities to several states; and Regional Educational Laboratory Program (REL Pacific), which provide research on instruction and assessment to service to the Pacific Region.
Professor Abedi’s research is recognized as contributing significantly to the understanding of the issues surrounding assessment and instruction of over five and half million English language learners. His contributions have helped to improve the quality of assessment for these students who are facing a challenging academic career.
Abedi, J. (2014). The use of computer technology in designing appropriate test accommodations for English language learners. Applied Measurement in Education.
Abedi, J. (2013). Accommodations in the assessment of English language learners. Companion to Language Assessment. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
Abedi, J. (2013). Testing of ELL Students (Chapter 101). In K.F. Geisinger, APA Handbook of Testing and Assessment in Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Abedi, J., & Ewers, N. (2013). Accommodations for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities: A Research-Based Decision Algorithm http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Accomodations-for-under-represented-students.pdf
Abedi, J. (2012). Validity issues in designing accommodations. In G. Fulcher & F. Davidson, The Routledge Handbook of Language Testing. London: Routledge, Taylor, & Francis Group.
Abedi, J., Bayley, R., Ewers, N., Mundhenk, K., Leon, S., & Kao, J. (2012). Accessible Reading Assessments for Students with Disabilities. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education: Special Issue 2012, 59(1), 81-95.
Abedi, J., & Linquanti, R. (2012). Issues and opportunities in improving the quality of large scale assessment systems for English Language Learners. In K. Hakuta & M. Santos, Understanding Language. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.